The white belly of kittens develops in the uterus when the pigment cells divide and move

Q I notice that many cats have white bellies and some also have white legs, even though the rest of the coat is another color. Are white bellies as common in cats as they seem? If yes, why?

A White bellies are indeed common in cats, dogs and other species. Each of my tuxedo cats are black with white undersides and legs, as if the cat is wearing a black tuxedo with a white shirt and socks.

This coat pattern occurs due to the distribution of melanocytes, cells that contain a pigment called melanin that produces color.

When the developing cat is just an embryo, still a tiny round ball, the melanocytes congregate on the outer surface, where skin and fur will form, along what will become the kitten’s spine.

As the embryo develops, the melanocytes migrate along the outer surface of the sphere to what will be the kitten’s belly and legs.

If the melanocytes divide rapidly, enough of them reach the underside of the kitten to produce color there. However, if the pigment cells are dividing slowly and not migrating the full distance, the cat’s belly will be devoid of pigment and appear white.

Q Our dog, Jingles, has terrible flatulence. The smell can clear a room. What causes flatulence and what can we do about it?

A Dogs let in the air they swallow while eating and expel gases formed by gut bacteria that ferment dietary fiber and other carbohydrates not broken down by the dog’s digestive enzymes.

Most past gases are odorless. However, some that are produced by bacteria in the large intestine contain hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.

Flatulence is treated in several ways, depending on the cause.

For example, bulldogs and other flat-faced breeds swallow air when they eat because they have trouble breathing through their noses. Dogs that gulp down their meals also swallow air.

If it looks like Jingles, you can slow his feeding if you put kibble in a food puzzle, feed him using a Brake-Fast Bowl or similar that has obstructions around which he has to eat, or spill a bowl in the center of a cookie sheet so he has to eat around the bowl.

Also, try to feed several small meals each day instead of one large meal.

Stop giving table scraps and other foods that often cause flatulence, such as soy, peas, and fruit. Do not give Jingles milk, yogurt, cheese, or other lactose-containing foods. Avoid carrageenan, an ingredient that improves the texture of canned foods.

Most flatulence occurs when carbohydrates that are not broken down by the dog’s digestive enzymes are transported to the large intestine where they are fermented and digested by gas-producing bacteria.

To determine if undigested carbs play a role in Jingles’ flatulence, feed him only white rice and water for about a week. Rice doesn’t produce gas, so if his flatulence goes down, you’ll know his diet is part of the problem.

Then, gradually switch to a diet in which rice is the main carbohydrate, or ask your veterinarian to recommend a low-residue diet. These diets contain highly digestible ingredients that are completely broken down by the dog’s digestive enzymes, leaving minimal residue for gas-producing bacteria in the large intestine.

Research shows that flatulence is also significantly reduced in dogs who take probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that keep stubborn bacteria in check. So consider giving Jingles a veterinary probiotic, such as FortiFlora, Prostora, or Proviable.

Finally, dogs with intestinal parasites and gastrointestinal disorders that affect nutrient absorption often produce excess gas. So if these recommendations do not allow you to remove the clothespin from your nose, schedule an appointment to have Jingles evaluated by your veterinarian.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at

[email protected]

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